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JIM FRONEBERGER: EDITOR


                                               Inspiration


                             T    here are quite a few NASA astro-  question that I would contribute to enter the lottery for a chance

                                  nauts who have gone on to fly at
                                                               to spend three days in orbit over 300 miles above our planet,
                                  airshows or air races. Apollo as-
                                  tronauts Frank Borman and Bill   higher than the International Space Station. While my fantasies
                                                               had Issacman calling me one day to offer me a seat, the reality
                             Anders flew warbirds. Space Shuttle   was that the lottery win went to Chris Sembroski, an engineer
                             astronauts Robert “Hoot” Gibson and   with Lockheed Martin in Everett, Washington. The winner of
                             Curt Brown raced in the Unlimited   the online store contest was Sian Proctor, a former NASA astro-
                             and Jet Classes at Reno. Shuttle Astro-  naut candidate who didn’t make the cut in 2009. The St. Jude seat
                             naut Joe Edwards flew a T-28 aerobatic   went to Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor who was
                             demo. There are probably others I’ve   working at St. Jude’s as a physician’s assistant.
                             missed, but those are the first ones that   While I didn’t get to fly into space with Isaacman, back in
                             immediately come to mind.         2011, thanks to then Black Diamond flight leader Jerry “Jive”
                                So, while it’s not unusual for an as-  Kerby and his wife Lunar Sawyer, I was fortunate enough to get
        tronaut to become an airshow pilot, recently a former airshow pi-  to fly in a Black Diamond L-39 just a few feet off Jared’s wing dur-
        lot actually became an astronaut. I’m talking about Jared “Rook”   ing a formation photo shoot. I flew in the slot position with for-
        Isaacman, the former owner of and                                              mer Thunderbird Sean “Stroker”
        right-wing pilot for the Black Dia-                                            Gustafson at the controls, and that
        mond Jet Team, a civilian jet team                                             flight remains one of the most in-
        that flew on the circuit for a few                                             credible experiences I’ve had in my
        years starting in 2011. Isaacman also                                          fifteen years as Editor of this maga-
        founded Draken International in                                                zine. While watching the Netflix
        Lakeland,  Florida,  a company that                                            TV documentary “Countdown,”
        operates  one  of  the  world’s  largest                                       which chronicled the Inspiration
        fleets of privately-owned fighter jets                                         4 mission, I had a bit of a sense of
        and provides training services to the                                          déjà vu when I saw that Stroker
        U.S. armed forces.                                                             was the pilot who, just a few days
           Jared’s aviation pursuits were                                              before launch, flew Sembroski to
        made possible by his primary line                                              the Kennedy Space Center in a for-
        of work, the founder of what is now                                            mer Black Diamond L-39.
        called Shift4Payments, a payments                                                The Inspiration 4 mission
        processor primarily serving the re-                                            launched on time on September 15
        tail, hospitality, leisure, and restau-                                        and spent three full days on orbit
        rant industries. He started the com-                                           before splashing down in the At-
        pany when he was just 16, but in                                               lantic Ocean off the coast of Florida
        2020, Shift4Payments went public                                               on September 18. By the time the
        with a listing on the New York Stock                                           mission ended, almost $154 mil-
        Exchange, and Isaacman became a                                                lion had been raised for St. Jude’s,
        billionaire at age 37.                                                         then Elon Musk added another $50
           In early February 2021, during                                              million, putting the effort over its
        a 30-second Super Bowl commer-                                                 $200 million goal.
        cial, Isaacman announced that he                                                 While I didn’t win a chance to
        had purchased an orbital flight from                                           fly in space on Inspiration 4, all
        Elon  Musk’s  SpaceX  that  would  be                                          hope is not lost. Less than a month
        launched into earth orbit for three                                            after the Inspiration 4 mission, ac-
        days in one of their Crew Dragon                                               tor William Shatner (Captain Kirk
        capsules mounted atop a SpaceX Fal-                                            on Star Trek) flew on a suborbital
        con 9 rocket. Jared would command this first privately-funded   space flight at the age of 90 aboard Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin New
        orbital mission – dubbed Inspiration 4 – and would take along   Shepard rocket. Since, at 65, I’m a full 25 years younger than
        three other private citizens to raise $200 million for St. Jude’s   Shatner, I figure I have at least a couple decades yet to get my shot
        Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. One of the three seats   at a flight into space.
        would go to a hand-picked representative from St. Jude’s, the   Hey, Jeff Bezos, how about sending an airshow journalist on
        second would go to a Shift4Payments customer chosen from en-  an upcoming Blue Origin launch? I would love to write a World
        trants who designed an online store and developed a promotion-  Airshow News “Stick Time with the New Shepard.” I’m waiting
        al social media campaign, and the final seat would be chosen by   for your call!
        lottery from people who contributed to St. Jude’s on the Inspira-
        tion 4 web site.                                       Photo: My 2011 ride with the Black Diamond Jet Team. Could Jeff Bezos offer an even
           As a space geek ever since my childhood, there was never any   more incredible ride?


                                            www.airshowmag.com   6  Autumn 2021
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